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FIA tweaks 2013 and 2014 regulations and adds another 2013 European race to calendar


By Berthold Bouman

During a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) in Istanbul, Turkey, amendments have been made to the 2013 and 2014 Sporting and Technical Regulations. Formula One’s governing body has tweaked the regulations regarding deflection of wings and the problem with cars running out of fuel during qualifying has also been addressed.

FIA WMSC meeting at Istanbul

FIA WMSC meeting at Istanbul

As already was announced, the Drag Reductions System (DRS) may only be used during qualifying and practice sessions in the same zones as during the race, the unlimited use of DRS had raised safety concerns, the FIA thinks the ‘trial period’ of DRS is now over.

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting recently said about DRS, “The whole point of the DRS was to improve overtaking in the race — that’s the sole and stated reason for it — and we didn’t really want to have it used in qualifying and practice before but we were rather worried we may not have an effective DRS. Now I believe with all the information we have, we should not see any reduction in the power of the DRS.”

The FIA also moved the German Grand Prix to July 7, as another European race will be added to the 2013 calendar (to replace the New Jersey race), which will take place on July 21. Realistically speaking there is only one venue on the FIA’s list, the Turkish Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit, with its famous Turn Eight. Read the complete FIA statement:

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Ecclestone: I’m 82 years old and that’s how it is!


By Berthold Bouman

I didn’t take long for Bernie Ecclestone to react on Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo’s comments that the Formula One boss would be ‘too old’ for his job. “The one thing he is correct about is my age — there is no doubt about that. I can’t do anything about that. I’m 82 years old and that’s how it is,” said Ecclestone to the BBC.

Bernie Ecclestone facing investigation by German Prosecutor

Bernie Ecclestone

And the FOM CEO said about Montezemolo, “He says he doesn’t remember what he says very often. Luca is not as old as me. I’m sure in his case it has nothing to do with his age because he’s always been the same. At least he’s consistent. God knows what’s going to happen when he’s 82.”

But Ecclestone doesn’t take Montezemolo’s comments seriously, he actually likes the Ferrari boss, “Luca is a lovely guy, I’m probably as a big a supporter of him as anybody. I am a big admirer of Luca’s and I’m sorry for all the trouble he’s had with politics recently. He should never have got involved in the first place.”

Ecclestone suspects Fernando Alonso pushed Ferrari to seek clarification about the Vettel yellow flag saga from Formula One’s governing body, the FIA. “I think there was so much pressure from probably the driver. You must remember he’s [Alonso] been saying nearly every race this year the car is rubbish and it’s a bit difficult for them not to look as if they’re trying to do something to help him.”

About the other things Montezemolo complained of, in particularly the current in-season test ban, are easy to explain as on Friday the FIA has its Annual General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, where the future regulations of the sport will be discussed.


Montezemolo blasts testing ban, Ecclestone is too old for the job


By Berthold Bouman

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo heavily criticized Formula One, and ridiculed FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone, the man who runs the Formula One show, as well. Montezemolo is still not happy with the testing ban and he also reacted on Ecclestone’s attack on the Maranello-based team regarding their stance in what became known as the ‘yellow flag saga’.

“There are things that aren’t going well in this sport and the moment has arrived to clarify these once and for all in the appropriate places. We can no longer have a situation in which the transfer of technology from the track to the street is reduced to the bare minimum, engines and gearboxes are always the same and the aerodynamics no longer has anything to do with research for road cars,” Montezemolo said during the Finali Mondiali days at Valencia.

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo - Photo: FerrariFerrari President Luca di Montezemolo

The Italian is still unhappy, if that is the correct word, about the testing ban, “It cannot be that in this sport you can’t test. We’ve been saying this for a while and we will repeat it in the appropriate places so for the moment I don’t want to add anything else. But our patience has run out so someone needs to think about whether they want Formula One still to have companies that invest and consider it the most advanced research bench for its own cars — as Ferrari has always done since 1950.”

Montezemolo forgot one thing: the extensive testing of Ferrari in the ‘good old days’ was actually the reason for the FIA to ban testing altogether and to only allow three pre-season testing sessions. At the time the other teams jokingly said that there was always a Ferrari testing something somewhere, as they spent more days testing than participating in Grands Prix, at the time Ferrari even had two special test teams.

Ferrari is apparently no longer happy with Ecclestone either as Montezemolo also said, “We are constructors, not sponsors: I’m no longer happy that we can’t do testing on tarmac and that you can’t give any chance for young drivers to emerge — since some people have used the expression ‘It’s a joke’ in recent days, I would like to say that this is the real ‘joke’.”

“Yes, I’m referring to one of Ecclestone’s phrases: my father always taught me that you have to have respect your elders, above all when they reach the point that they can no longer control their words. So I will stop there. Certainly, old age is often incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities,” he added.

He was of course referring to Ecclestone who last week said that Ferrari seeking clarification from the FIA about the yellow flags that Sebastian Vettel allegedly ignored during the Brazilian Grand Prix, was ‘a joke.’ But what Montezemolo said about Ecclestone is certainly not a joke and is inappropriate, to say the least. The 82-year old Formula One boss hasn’t reacted yet, but one can be certain that this story will be continued …


HRT team not on official FIA 2013 entry list


By Berthold Bouman

Only 22 cars are on the official 2013 entry list published by the FIA yesterday, as the HRT team is missing from the list. The Spanish outfit originally founded by Spanish ex-Formula One driver Adrian Campos also failed to pay the 500,000 Euro entry fee. Last month the team was put up for sale by current owner Thesan Capital and in a press release said that they were ‘in talks with a number of groups interested in buying the team’.

The HRT team in Brazil a week ago

The HRT team in Brazil a week ago

HRT have been struggling from day one. The team was originally owned by Campos Meta, then bought by Spanish entrepreneur Jose Ramon Carabante and last year sold to Thesan, who now apparently have failed to find a new buyer for the financially stricken team. Although there have been no official statements from Thesan or any of the HRT staff, it seems only 22 cars will appear at the start of the 2013 Australian Grand Prix.

Not only the names of HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan are missing from the list, but other teams still have to complete their 2013 driver line-up. Romain Grosjean is not named as second Lotus driver, also the names of the Sauber, Force India, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia drivers are missing from the list.

Sauber recently officially confirmed Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, Toro Rosso confirmed Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne for 2013, while former Marussia driver Charles Pic has signed a multi-year contract with Caterham. Those names have been added to the list below.

2013 Provisional Entry List

Car Driver                 Nat      Team
01  Sebastian Vettel       GER      Red Bull-Renault
02  Mark Webber            AUS      Red Bull-Renault
03  Fernando Alonso        ESP      Ferrari
04  Felipe Massa           BRA      Ferrai
05  Jenson Button          GBR      McLaren-Mercedes
06  Sergio Perez           MEX      McLaren-Mercedes
07  Kimi Raikkonen         FIN      Lotus-Renault
08  TBA                    --       Lotus-Renault
09  Nico Rosberg           GER      Mercedes
10  Lewis Hamilton         GBR      Mercedes
11  Nico Hulkenberg        GER      Sauber-Ferrari
12  Esteban Gutierriez     MEX      Sauber-Ferrari
14  TBA                    --       Force India-Mercedes
15  TBA                    --       Force India-Mercedes
16  Pastor Maldonado       VEN      Williams-Renault
17  Valtteri Bottas        FIN      Williams Renault
18  Daniel Ricciardo       AUS      Toro Rosso-Ferrari
19  Jean-Eric Vergne       FRA      Toro Rosso Ferrari
20  TBA                    --       Caterham-Renault 
21  Charles Pic            FRA      Caterham-Renault
22  TBA                    --       Marussia-Cosworth
23  TBA                    --       Marussia-Cosworth

Valtteri Bottas excited about new Williams role, aims to score points in 2013


By Berthold Bouman

Valtteri Bottas, Williams - Photo: Williams F1Valtteri Bottas will replace Bruno Senna in 2013, Williams announced this morning, and for the young Finn it is a dream come true. The 23-year old driver had already joined Williams in 2010 and became the official test and reserve driver for the Grove-based outfit, and has participated in 15 Friday morning practice sessions this season, and Bottas is now ready for his new role as race driver.

The talented Finn has an impressive race C.V., he won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and NEC series with team Motopark Academy in 2008, won the Masters of Formula Three in 2009 and 2010, and won the GP3 series in 2011 for Lotus ART.

Bottas already has shown he is fast in the Williams, as he several times out-paced regular drivers Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado. Asked how participating in the free practice sessions has helped him to prepare for his new job as race driver he said, “This will be a big help as it means there are only a handful of circuits on the 2013 calendar that I have never driven, in Australia, Monaco, Valencia, Austin and Singapore. There will still be a lot of work to do but it means that I do have some knowledge to work from heading to most races next season.”

However, being a test driver, Bottas missed racing this year, “Obviously I’ve missed racing a great deal so can’t wait to get back onto a starting grid, but I’ve been racing constantly since a very young age so when the lights go out in Australia It will be business as usual.”

Now his dream has finally come true, how does he feel about his new role at Williams? “It feels incredible to be driving in Formula One next season and to be with a team like Williams, with all its pedigree, is even more special. I’ve worked hard to get here ever since I started karting at six years old, but the real work starts now as I prepare myself for the biggest challenge of my career.”

Valtteri Bottas, Williams - Photo: Williams F1

Bottas aims to score points for Williams in 2013

Of course he now knows all the Williams engineers, and he thinks this will be a benefit next year, “I’ve been part of the Williams family since the start of 2010 and feel very at home both at Grove and at the track. I know my engineers very well so we already know how to get the best performance from each other.”

And he added, “I also live in the UK and last year moved just down the road from the factory so I am there quite a lot and know everyone well. Because of that we can focus immediately on the 2013 season and what we can achieve together.”

Asked about his objectives for 2012 he said, “It’s difficult to set objectives before the season starts, so I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity to prove the team has been right to promote me to a race seat. I want to look back on 2013 and feel that I’ve improved as a driver and helped the team improve its performance on the track.”

And the young driver is even aiming to score some points in 2013, “As a team I think we should be aiming to score more points than this year and really get the most out of the car. Personally I hope to look back and feel that I have learnt a lot and developed as a driver over the course of the season, having scored a lot of points for the team!”

Bottas aims to score points in 2013


Brazilian GP: Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali – We have nothing to lose


By Berthold Bouman

A very important weekend for both Ferrari and Red Bull, after 19 races Sebastian Vettel is leading the Formula One Drivers’ Championship, 13 points ahead of Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, both teams will do the utmost to clinch the title on Sunday at the Brazilian Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, named after Brazilian driver Carlos Pace who was active in Formula One during the 1970’s but, unfortunately, the rising star was killed during an aircraft accident in 1977.

Domenicali: Ferrari has nothing to lose

It will be a ‘do or die’ weekend for Ferrari, is the opinion of Team Principal Stefano Domenicali. The Italian was asked about Ferrari’s approach for this weekend during the usual FIA Friday press conference, “We have nothing to lose. We are already behind. We need to go there with a rational approach, as I said, to try to be there, if some situation will arise, we need to be prepared to take them. This is really the spirit that is around the team at the moment.”

Asked about what plans Ferrari has made for this weekend he said, “We have done the job we were supposed to do today. We know that this weekend for us is a challenging weekend. We have to do the maximum on our side and that will not be enough if we want to win the Drivers’ Championship.”

Rain has been forecasted for Saturday and Sunday, asked whether this would be an advantage for Ferrari or not, the Italian replied, “I’ll tell you later. Before [the race], it’s always difficult [to tell]. It can be good in terms of mixing the cars but it depends on how intense the rain is, when it will come. It is another thing on the table that has to be used in the best way we can.”

Domenicali was very satisfied with Alonso’s achievements this season, “Fernando, in my view, up to now, did one of the best seasons of his career.” Alonso didn’t really have the fastest car, but said Domenicali, “He was able to extract from that the maximum out of it. He was able to get great victories in a moment where the car has improved, he drove really well in wet conditions when he was in that situation. He was always at the maximum.”

So, what does he expect from the Spaniard this weekend? “I’m sure Fernando will do the maximum of his capability to make sure … to do the best with the car that he has with a team that is working hard under a lot of pressure. I’m happy for that, because the team was able to do sometimes incredible work.”

One reporter reminded the Italian team boss about the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa won the race, but nevertheless lost the title to Lewis Hamilton during a wet race, at the finish line the difference was forty seconds, but Hamilton’s fifth place was enough to take the 2008 crown. Could this happen again this weekend?

“In 2008 we were able to win the Constructors’ title, to have Felipe as World Champion of Drivers for 20 seconds, but after Hamilton won the [title] race, in a championship where I would say we lost, if I remember well, mainly because the car was not reliable enough, because we had some races where unfortunately we had severe DNF that caused us to lose that championship,” said Domenicali.

“On Sunday, I think that, as I said, we are in a different spirit. We cannot look back; we need to see whatever will be the outcome we need to accept it. So therefore I would say our mindset is closer to what we had in 2007 at the moment.”


Charles Pic signs multi-year contract with Caterham F1


By Berthold Bouman

Caterham F1 today announced they have signed a multi-year contract with Charles Pic, the Frenchman who currently drives for Marussia, will be the team’s race driver in 2013 and beyond. Caterham were impressed with Pic’s first season in Formula One, and decided to sign the 22-year old driver from Montélimar, France.

Caterham F1 signed Charles Pic

Caterham Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul was happy with his new driver and commented, “We are all looking forward to working with a young driver who has clearly shown in his first season in F1 that he has the pace, race craft and demeanour to help us achieve our goals.”

And Abiteboul added, “We have been monitoring the progress that Charles has made, challenging us on several occasions in qualifying, and it is clear that he is a special talent. As the year has progressed he has performed extremely well against a very experienced team mate and we are looking forward to seeing him develop further within the environment we will provide in 2013 and beyond.”

Pic was proud that he was given the opportunity to race for the Anglo-Malaysian team, “I am very proud to be able to confirm that I am joining Caterham F1 Team next year and I’m looking forward to many seasons of successful racing co-operation. I’m enthusiastic to have the opportunity to continue to grow in a team that has a technical relationship with a number of French global companies, including Renault and Total, plus an official partnership with EADS.”

Caterham is still growing as a Formula One team and Pic added, “It is clear that the team has great ambitions for the future: the investments already made and the decisions taken in the last few months show how committed the shareholders are to succeed and demonstrates their willingness to keep going forward.”

Jean-François Caubet, Managing Director of Renault Sport F1 said, “We are always motivated to see promising drivers in our partner teams and Charles is no exception. Additionally, France remains the largest Renault market and having another young, dynamic French driver join the Renault stable will give us further branding, marketing and PR opportunities. We look forward to working with him closely over the coming years.”


Sauber signs Gutierrez as race driver, Frijns test and reserve driver


By Berthold Bouman

Sauber has signed Mexican Esteban Gutierrez as their 2013 race driver, and he will be racing alongside Nico Hulkenberg who will leave the Force India team at the end of the season. The 21-year old Mexican will succeed his compatriot Sergio Perez who will move to McLaren in 2013.

Gutierrez will drive for Sauber in 2013

Gutierrez was already test and reserve driver for the Swiss outfit, and Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn summed up his career, “Esteban has already been part of the team for a long time and we have followed his career very closely. In 2010 we signed him up as an affiliated driver, and in 2011 and 2012 he was our test and reserve driver. We mapped out his path to Formula One step by step. Esteban has great talent and now he’s ready to take the leap.” And she added, “We are in no doubt we have a strong driver pairing in place for the 2013 season with Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.”

Gutierrez thanked Sauber for giving him the opportunity to become a Formula One driver, “After three years working with Sauber I feel very grateful for all the attention I have received from everyone in the team and for all their input, which has allowed me to develop into a Formula One driver in a very progressive way.”

“Now, after experiencing other categories of racing as an introduction to Formula One, this is the start of the real challenge to succeed at the pinnacle of motor sport,” he added. About his team mate Hulkenberg he commented, “It will be a great pleasure to be racing in the same team as an experienced driver like Nico Hulkenberg. He will be a good reference point for me and will push me to adapt quickly to F1 competition so we can develop the car together with the team in the best way.”

Gutierrez last drove the Sauber C31 during the Young Driver Days at Abu Dhabi, and so did Dutchman Robin Frijns, who has now been promoted to test and reserve driver. Frijns is actually just a few days younger than Gutierrez, and also has an impressive race C.V.

“Monitoring Robin’s racing career“, said Frijns’ team boss Kaltenborn, “makes it easy to spot his potential. This was the reason we gave him the chance to drive the Sauber C31-Ferrari at the Young Driver Days in Abu Dhabi. He managed this very well. We will now carefully guide him to Formula One. This is a long way, but Robin has got the skills to do that successfully.”

Frijns, who also tested for Red Bull at Abu Dhabi, said, “I’m very happy the Sauber F1 Team has given me this opportunity. I would like to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber for their belief and trust in me by signing me to join their team as a test and reserve driver.”

Of course the young Dutchman is already looking forward to the 2013 season, “With this opportunity I will try to help the team as much as possible and get the chance to learn how Formula 1 works in an extremely professional environment. I am already very much looking forward to getting the 2013 season started and working together with the team.”

Unfortunately this announcement also means Kamui Kobayashi will have to find a new race seat for 2013, and Kaltenborn thanked the Japanese driver for his time with the Swiss team, “This has not been an easy decision for us to take, but we have committed ourselves to a new beginning and our time with Kamui will come to an end after the final race of the season. We wish Kamui all the best for the future.”

Robin Frijns, Sauber’s new test and reserve driver


Daimler now fully owns Mercedes Formula One team


By Berthold Bouman

The German Daimler company now fully owns the Mercedes Formula One team, as the German carmaker has bought the remaining 40 percent stake in the team, previously owned by the Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments company.

Aabar sold its stake to Daimler

Aabar recently cut its ties with Daimler and sold their 3 percent stake in the Daimler company, and selling their stake in the Mercedes Formula One team was a logical step, Reuters reported. The sale is still subject to regulatory approval.

Mercedes have recently signed the new Concorde Agreement which means they have committed to Formula One until 2020. At the start of this season there were rumours the Daimler Board of Directors still had to decide about the future of the Mercedes team, as due to the economic recession the German company wasn’t sure they would be able to continue supporting the team.

The Mercedes team is led by Ross Brawn and Mercedes Motorsport Director Norbert Haug. Brawn bought the team from Honda at the end of 2008 when the Japanese carmaker decided to withdraw from the sport due to the economic recession and a chronic lack of results.

Brawn had to fire half of his staff, turned the team in Brawn GP and against all odds became a winning team. Mostly due to the nifty double diffuser, of course a design from the man himself, Brawn GP dominated the 2009 season and won the Constructors’ Championship, and driver Jenson Button won the Drivers’ Championship.

At the end of 2009, Brawn sold the team to Daimler and Aabar, and they recruited Nico Rosberg and seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher, the latter will retire after the Brazilian Grand Prix next weekend.

Last month Lewis Hamilton signed a three-year contract with the Mercedes team, which was already a sign the Mercedes Formula One team’s future had been secured. Mercedes also supplies engines to the McLaren and Force India Formula One teams.


United States GP: Ferrari disappointed, but Alonso’s aim remains unchanged


By Berthold Bouman

Despite the fact Sebastian Vettel has so far completely dominated the United States Grand Prix and took pole for today’s race, Fernando Alonso, who will start the race from eighth place on the grid, still is adamant he can grab this year’s Formula One crown.

Alonso believes he can still grab the title

“Our aim remains unchanged and it’s still possible: on Sunday all sorts of things can happen. Reliability, strategy — it will be important to work out when is the best time to pit because here, the cold tyres can be slower by several seconds — and team work will be as usual important,” said the Spaniard after qualifying.

The Ferrari F2012 clearly lacks the necessary speed and downforce, and there wasn’t really much he could do. “We never managed to put together the best lap, which on these tyres and with these track conditions is always the last one you do. We knew it would be a complicated weekend but clearly today we were too slow and we will start from too far back,” Alonso admitted.

But he somehow ‘senses’ he will score points, and predicted he will even finish ahead of Vettel, “We said yesterday that Red Bull will be one and two and we will be seventh and eighth and people will be thinking it’s all over. Then on Sunday we will show that we can score more points than Vettel — I don’t know how exactly, but I have this feeling inside.”

But Ferrari’s Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was less optimistic, and was not happy with the qualifying result, “A disappointing qualifying that puts us in a very difficult position in terms of the championship, given that our main rival will start from pole position.”

He admitted Ferrari’s pace had everything to do with the Pirelli tyres, again it seems the Maranello-based squad can’t get the tyres on the right working temperature to get the most out of them. Domenicali commented, “The main problem was linked to tyre performance, but let’s make it clear, the responsibility rests with us, because the tyres are the same for everyone and therefore it’s down to us to try and get them to work as well as possible.”

But all is not lost according to the Italian, “We have said it often, the sums are done on Sunday afternoon: clearly the outlook is not positive but we are well aware that the situation can be different in the race. There are no reference points for a new track therefore the unknown factors are greater than usual: we have a duty to tackle every aspect to perfection.”


FIA: DRS use during practice and qualifying to be restricted in 2013


By Berthold Bouman

The use of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) during the free practice sessions and qualifying will be restricted next year, the FIA — Formula One’s governing body — announced. Drivers will only be able to use it at the same places where they are allowed to use it during the race.

No more unlimited use of DRS during practice and qualifying in 2013

DRS was introduced in 2011 to make overtaking easier, right from the start it has been a controversial tool for overtaking, controversial from a drivers’ point of view, but also many Formula One fans still haven’t embraced the adjustable rear upper wing flap. Drivers now also use DRS during qualifying to put a fast lap on the clock, but the unlimited use has now raised safety concerns.

Using the device during practice and qualifying was allowed to give teams the opportunity to get familiar with the system, but next year the FIA will change the regulations.

“We are going to prohibit the use of DRS in qualifying and practice, except at the places it is going to be used in the race. That’s something we told the teams about the other day and it’s something we are going to do for safety reasons,” said FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

And Whiting further explained, “The whole point of the DRS was to improve overtaking in the race – that’s the sole and stated reason for it — and we didn’t really want to have it used in qualifying and practice before but we were rather worried we may not have an effective DRS.

“Now I believe with all the information we have, we should not see any reduction in the power of the DRS. I think teams will still use because even though they’ll only be allowed to use it in say two sections, the benefit will still be there for them. I’m sure it will work just as it does now.”

DRS has already been more powerful than the FIA initially expected, and Whiting added, “We’re doing this for safety reasons. We believe there have been a number of incidents and drivers have told me it is becoming increasingly prevalent [during qualifying].”


Thesan Capital puts HRT Formula One team up for sale


By Berthold Bouman

Just ahead of the United States Grand Prix, HRT owner Spanish investment company Thesan Capital has said in a statement the Spanish outfit is for sale, and are currently ‘in talks with a number of groups interested in buying the team’.

HRT for sale

The statement further read, “HRT Formula 1 Team’s current management hopes to conclude the sale in the upcoming weeks and, with it, enable the team to continue progressing and become a reference in modern-day Formula 1 after the important achievements already accomplished in this 2012 season. HRT Formula 1 Team hopes to communicate the name of its new owner in the upcoming weeks.”

The Spanish team has been in financial troubles ever since the team was founded in 2009. In February 2010 founder and ex-Formula One driver Adrian Campos was forced to sell his team to Spanish businessman José Ramón Carabante, who already had a majority stake in the team.

In July 2011 Carabante sold his stake to the Madrid-based Thesan Capital, who wanted to give the team a Spanish base, and in February 2012 the team moved their headquarters to the Caja Mágica complex in Madrid.

In the statement HRT said, “We believe the moment to let new investors come through for HRT Formula 1 Team has arrived. We’re very proud of the work done by the entire team and of the excellent sporting evolution achieved but the time has come for the team to continue growing with new financial backing. We’re convinced that the sporting potential of the team is huge and that the presence of new investors can give it a big boost.”

Team members and Team Principal Luis Perez-Sala have so far not given their reaction on the news, nor did drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan.


DTM: Alessandro Zanardi drives BMW M3 DTM at Nurburgring


By Berthold Bouman

Alessandro Zanardi drove the BMW M3 DTM car at the German Nurburgring today, the 46-year old Italian drove 36 laps in a special gold painted BMW as part of a three-day celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of BMW M, and of course to celebrate their successful return to the DTM series.

Alessandro Zanardi at the Nurburgring today

Zanardi, who won two gold and one silver medal on his handbike at the Paralympic Games in London, didn’t need much time to get used to the car and according to BMW driving the technically complex DTM car proved to be no obstacle for the Italian, who lost both legs during a ChampCar accident in 2001 on the German Lausitzring.

BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt said about Zanardi, “I am delighted we have taken on this adventure successfully with Alessandro Zanardi. For years he has been a valued member of the BMW Motorsport family and is a great role model for us all. Despite his handicap, he approaches every challenge with great optimism and passes every test with flying colours.

“His medals at the Paralympic Games in London are fine examples of this, as are the four race victories he achieved in the FIA World Touring Car Championship for BMW Motorsport. As we have seen today, the challenge of driving the technically complex BMW M3 DTM also proved to be no obstacle for him.”

“I am overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to drive the BMW M3 DTM today,” said Zanardi. “This is a very special day for me, and one I will always remember fondly. I would like to thank everyone at BMW who has helped make this special moment possible for me. It was a challenge to modify the car to meet my requirements and I am surprised just how quickly the BMW Motorsport engineers managed to complete the necessary modifications.

Alessandro Zanardi inspects his car

“However, the guys have done a great job. I had great fun out on the track. When I first saw the golden car I was overwhelmed. I still have a passion for racing.”

But whether Zanardi will make a race return in the DTM series still remains uncertain, and Zanardi commented, “However, I’m not sure whether our demonstration drive will be anything more than just that, as the level in the DTM may possibly prove to be too high for someone of my age. As such, my main focus is on something completely different after today’s drive: I felt that the BMW family is still behind me and loves me. They showed that once again today.”

Canadian Bruno Spengler took the 2012 DTM crown for BMW after a 20-year absence, BMW also took the 2012 DTM manufacturer’s title, while BMW Team Schnitzer ended the season at the top of the team standings, and to top it off, BMW driver Brazilian Augusto Farfus was crowned Rookie of the Year 2012.


Abu Dhabi GP: Caterham hoping to unlock potential of car upgrades


By Berthold Bouman

Mixed results for Caterham today at the Abu Dhabi Yas Marina circuit, a bad day at the office for Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, who had to sit out his stint in the Caterham during the morning session. When he went out for his usual installation lap, he encountered electronic problems, returned to the garage and was sidelined for the rest of the session.

Not a good day for Giedo van der Garde

“Obviously that was a pretty frustrating session, but these things sometimes happen. As soon as I went out on the installation lap I could hear that the engine sounded different to my previous FP1 runs and from what I understand the problem looks like it’s to do with the electronic boxes or the looms,” said van der Garde. Fortunately the 27-year old Dutchman will have another two days in the Caterham during next week’s Young Driver Test, also at the Abu Dhabi circuit.

For Heikki Kovalainen things went smooth during both Friday sessions. “In the first session we ran a number of the new parts we brought here and then did comparison runs in FP2, as well as trying the soft tyres on a performance run, and a longer stint at the end of the session,” said the Finn.

And he further explained, “The key to unlocking the potential of the upgrades is finding the right set-up and with the amount of laps we ran over both FP1 and FP2 today we’ve generated enough data to give us a good chance to find something we can work with tomorrow.” Which means the Caterham engineers will be sifting through the car data all night, and hopefully find a good set-up for tomorrow’s qualifying.

Vitaly Petrov was happy the Caterham mechanics found the problem van der Garde encountered in the morning, and he was able to do three runs this afternoon. “It was all sorted out by the start of FP2 so we could get on with the program immediately. On my first run we had a few handling issues to sort out so we made some mechanical changes and saw an immediate improvement on the second run,” said Petrov.

And he added, “By the time we put on the soft tyres the times were getting quicker with every lap and I think we found a balance that’s working for us around here.”

Kovalainen was 19th in FP1 and 20th in FP2, while Petrov was 19th in FP2.


Sauber Formula One team signs Nico Hulkenberg for 2013


By Berthold Bouman

The Sauber team today confirmed Nico Hulkenberg has signed a contract for 2013 with the Swiss outfit. The 25-year old German driver will replace Sergio Perez who will join McLaren next year. Sauber was impressed by Hulkenberg’s achievements in Formula One, thus signing him wasn’t a difficult decision.

Hulkenberg signs with Sauber for 2013

Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn commented, “We’ve been observing Nico for some time now and his performances have been very persuasive. That was the case in GP2 and has continued into Formula One.”

And she further explained, “An obvious highlight was how he scored pole at Interlagos in 2010 despite the most challenging external conditions. He clearly showed that he can seize the chance if it arises. But high spots like that are one thing; systematic teamwork is another — and on that score I have confidence in Nico too. I’m sure he will fit in very well with the Sauber F1 Team. We look forward to working together with him.”

Hulkenberg is looking forward to the new challenge, “I’m really looking forward to working with the Sauber F1 Team. It’s a well-placed team and very competitive. Plus it’s a team in which young drivers have repeatedly delivered exceptional performances. I would like to take up that baton.”

And he added, “The Sauber F1 Team is currently going through a very positive development and I’m certain that together we can achieve a lot. Until that time I will remain fully focused on my job with the Sahara Force India Team. I’d like to thank the management at Sahara Force India for giving me the chance to return to Formula One as a team driver.”

Hulkenberg’s C.V. is impressive indeed, before his Formula One career he won the Formula BMW ADAC series in 2005, he won the A1GP series in the 2006-2007 season, and he won the Masters of Formula Three in 2007. In 2008 he won the Formula Three Euroseries, and in 2009 won the GP2 series.

He started his Formula One career with Williams in 2010, but was dumped in favour of Pastor Maldonado, he was test driver for Force India in 2011 before he became a regular driver for the Indian team in 2012 and Hulkenberg is currently 12th in the Drivers’ Championship.

Sauber has yet to announce their second driver for 2013.


Indian GP: Webber and the curse of KERS


By Berthold Bouman

Technical issues made life difficult for Mark Webber at the Buddh International Circuit, as his Renault manufactured KERS gave him many problems, from lap 20 onwards his KERS system worked intermittently, which is a problem on the Indian track with its 1.2km long back straight.

“I couldn’t have done much more in the race. I got the maximum out of the car, but you can’t really compete without KERS on a track like this. It’s not Monaco; the straights are long and you need KERS. We had to manage the situation throughout the race,” Webber said.

KERS problems for Mark Webber

Before the problems with his KERS system, Webber was able to keep up with his team mate Sebastian Vettel, but without KERS it was not only difficult to defend his position on the long straights, but as it is charged through the rear wheels under braking, it also affected the balance of his car.

Webber kept Fernando Alonso at bay by gaining as much time as he could in the middle sector, and then had a buffer which prevented Alonso from overtaking him on the back straight. But he did have some problems with the back markers.

“You don’t want back markers in sector two at this track,” Webber said. “There are some quick corners there and if you meet someone in the wrong place, you can lose 1.5s before you know it. When you’ve got a guy like Fernando on your tail, you can’t afford to let up for a minute.”

Despite his problems, Webber was still happy with his third place although Lewis Hamilton came every close near the end of the race. “Lewis was in a nice rhythm and closing me down. I was pleased to see him make a mistake on lap 58 because I needed to keep him out of my DRS zone for as long as possible. That gave me a bit of breathing space; if there had been another two laps, I think he would have got me.”

Tonight Webber will already fly to Dubai to prepare for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend. These back-to-back races are quite intense,” said Webber. “But I like the Middle East, even if Yas Marina isn’t my favourite racetrack. The car has performed well for the past few races, so I hope we’ll be competitive there. I’m looking forward to it!”


Pirelli well-prepared for United States Grand Prix


By Berthold Bouman

The United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is not only a leap into the unknown for Formula One drivers and teams, but also for Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli. The Italian company has allocated the Medium and Hard tyre compounds for the inaugural US Grand Prix, the hardest tyres in their range, and a ‘relatively conservative choice’ Pirelli admitted.

Pirelli well-prepared for US GP

Pirelli has recently done a lot of simulation work to determine which tyre compounds would suit the brand-new track best. Pirelli sent two of their tyre engineers to Austin to inspect the track in detail, sophisticated laser equipment was used to determine the abrasiveness of the track’s new asphalt layer, the data was used to create a virtual representation on computer from a tyre point of view.

The engineers also took samples of the asphalt and used them to calculate the likely tyre wear, and also used them to see what the effect of the ambient temperatures at different points around the circuit will have on the tyres.

Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said, “There’s no doubt that preparing for a circuit that is completely new is more difficult than going to one of the established venues.” And he added, “The technology and know-how that we have at our disposal means that we can forecast some very accurate predictions without actually having raced at a circuit these days, thanks to the preparation work from our engineers.”

COTA President Steve Sexton was pleased with Pirelli’s preparations, “The sophisticated technology that Pirelli is known for has allowed them to be a market leader. Their analysis of our brand new track can help provide race strategy predictions that should assist drivers and teams toward achieving success at our circuit. We look forward to their continued work at Circuit of the Americas.”

Circuit of The Americas: Pirelli Virtual 3D Track Lap


Monisha Kaltenborn Narang about Sauber, India and the Indian Grand Prix


By Berthold Bouman

Monisha Kaltenborn Narang is her full name, and she’s the only female Team Principal in the entire history of Formula One, as her boss Peter Sauber retired last week and appointed her his successor, she also owns one-third of the Swiss team, and with the Indian Grand Prix to take place next week, now’s a good time to get to know her a little bit better.

Kaltenborn is proud of her Indian roots

Kaltenborn is proud of her Indian heritage, but rarely uses her second surname Narang, “I really like my Indian name. My Indian heritage and my parents’ family mean a great deal to me, which is why I never wanted to give up Narang. On the other hand, you have to admit that double-barrelled names aren’t very practical in day-to-day business operations. That’s why I only rarely use my full name,” she said in an interview today.

Sauber is getting ready for the Indian Grand Prix next weekend, obviously a special event for Kaltenborn, asked what her home Grand Prix means to her she said, “I really have to distinguish between the professional and the private side. From the sports point of view, as far as the Sauber F1 Team is concerned the Indian GP is a race like any other, with the same meticulous preparations and the same aspiration to achieve the best possible result.”

“From a personal point of view,” she said, “it’s rather different. Obviously I’m particularly looking forward to this race in my home country. As I travel to all the Grands Prix as part of my job, I don’t have time for private trips to India. During my school and university days I would go there regularly. My husband Jens and I celebrated our marriage in India with a fabulous and very happy Hindu ritual. I feel very attached to India.”

Asked about her best memories of India she had no doubt in her mind, “My wonderful childhood. Since I was their only grandchild for a long time, my grandparents spoilt me rotten, and we had three delightful dogs. Up to the age of eight I attended Welham Girls’ High School in Dehradun, my birthplace and one of the oldest and most traditional cities in the north of this vast country. It was a very happy time with marvellous friendships.”

In 1979 her parents decided to emigrate to give their daughter a better education, and they ended up in Austria. “Originally the plan was to find a new home in an English-speaking country,” Kaltenborn said. “But Vienna was the first stop on our journey because an uncle of my father’s was working at the atomic agency there. We liked it and so we stayed.”

“I was sent straight to an Austrian rather than an international school, so I learnt the language very quickly and became integrated,” she explained. She later completed law school in Vienna and became an Austrian citizen.”

Quizzed about her Indian roots she said, “I don’t think you ever lose your roots, and anyway you can tell where I’m from just by looking at me. I also think I have a certain serenity and openness you might describe as Indian. That includes shrugging off negative experiences and focusing positively on the future — something that is very important in an environment as competitive as Formula One.”

Does she still speak Hindi? “It’s no longer as good as I’d like it to be. But I do try to talk Hindi with the children occasionally. Our son is ten years old, our daughter seven, and I’d like them to learn the language. But my parents are better teachers than me!”

Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn

Asked about how important Formula One is in a country like India she replied, “Basically it’s difficult for any sport to find a place in India next to cricket. But I do think that the interest in Formula One has risen significantly since its debut last year.

“At least the media interest we are experiencing as a team would strongly indicate that. It seems right that India, as an upwardly mobile nation, a huge marketplace and a high-tech location, has found a place in the Formula One calendar with its excellently trained engineers. Both Formula One and the country can benefit from it.”

Back to her role of Team Principal, and asked what she thinks about the achievements of the Sauber team so far this season she said, “With four podium places and now 116 world championship points, we can certainly be proud of our achievements so far as a private team. Of course there have been races where things didn’t go to plan and we forfeited valuable points.”

And she added, “Our car, the Sauber C31-Ferrari, is a great success and has proved competitive on virtually any kind of circuit. Our ambitious goal remains to finish fifth in the Constructors’ World Championship. And I have the utmost confidence both in our team at Hinwil and in the crew at the track along with our two drivers, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez.”


Title fight is over says Hamilton, Button slams Kobayashi


By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton thinks his race for the 2012 crown is over after scoring just one point at the Korean Yeongam circuit. “In terms of winning the World Championship, logic suggests that that’s probably it for me,” said a disappointed Hamilton. “We were still in the fight up until now but it’s too far away. We’ll keep fighting in the Constructors’.

Championship hopes are over says Hamilton

“It doesn’t feel great to experience days like these, but every cloud has a silver lining. Put it this way: it’s good to see what’s in your heart when you keep fighting. Days like these show the true spirit within.”

Hamilton’s car had suffered from a rear anti-roll bar failure, the team found that out after his first stint, which explained the unusual tyre-wear, which in its turn compromised the car’s handling and balance. And three laps before the end of the race he picked up a strip of artificial grass which got stuck on his right sidepod. “It stalled the diffuser — so I had no rear downforce at the end, which made it even trickier to hang on to 10th place,” Hamilton explained.

Jenson Button was forced into retirement as Kamui Kobayashi took off his McLaren’s right front wheel, and the 2009 World Champion didn’t even complete a full lap. “It’s pretty poor driving standards considering this is the pinnacle of motorsport,” Button said about Kobayashi. “And it’s such a long race … the race is not two corners long and some people need to know that and whether they will ever learn that we’ll have to wait and see.”

And he too realises his championship aspirations are now pretty much over. “I no longer have a realistic chance to win the World Championship, so I’ll be enjoying myself over the final four races. Scoring points for the team in the Constructors’ World Championship will be the most important priority, so I’ll be focusing on picking up as many as I possibly can,” Button said after the race.

Jenson Button, McLaren

It was a miserable race for McLaren, as they lost their second place in the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari, but only six points separate the two teams. There are still 100 points on the table, so there is still a lot to fight for, McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh thinks, and he’s determined to do so.

“That’s what McLaren’s incredible team spirit is all about,” he said, adding, “That’s why McLaren has won one in four of all the Grands Prix that have been staged since our team first entered World Championship Grand Prix racing 46 long years ago. And that’s why we’ll be moving heaven and earth to win the four Grands Prix that still remain this year.

“It won’t be easy, but I promise you we’ll all be giving it our very best shot.”


New Massa deal could be imminent says Domenicali


By Berthold Bouman

After a strong result in Japan and Korea, Felipe Massa is very close to signing up for another year with the Italian Scuderia, according to Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali, who was very happy with Massa’s result today. “Felipe followed up his great race in Suzuka with another one here, also on the attack right from the opening lap and then again at other key moments, like when he overtook Hamilton,” Domenicali said after the race.

Massa close to a new Ferrari deal?

Asked about the Brazilian’s future he smiled and said, “His future? As my friend Laura Pausini [Italian pop singer] would say, “Wait and see…,” he answered. The points Massa scored in Japan and Korea were very important for Ferrari as they have now taken over McLaren’s second place in the Constructors’ Championship, but the Italian team has McLaren still right on their tail as they are only six points behind.

To Autosport.com Domenicali said he had no doubt Massa would stay in 2013 and commented, “When you get the OK from both directions that is when you are sure. I think it will be pretty soon to be honest. Very soon you will know what will be our position on that respect.” And he added, “Felipe is a very, very strong driver because otherwise we would have already taken a different decision.”

Massa again looked strong in Korea, but had to back off and stay behind Fernando Alonso to help to keep his championship aspirations alive.

“Towards the end, I closed on Fernando but attacking him was never even up for discussion: I know how important every single point is in the title fight. The whole team is doing its utmost to help Fernando and I am there for him, just as the team is and as it has been for me when I found myself in the same situation,” Massa said after the race.


Construction at Circuit of The Americas is nearing completion


By Berthold Bouman

Just weeks after FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting had given the green light for the United States Grand Prix on November 18, the construction team have now focussed on finalizing the details.

Circuit of the Americas nearing completion

A statement of the COTA read, “The track is undergoing the final phase of construction; both the Main Grandstand and Pit Building are nearly completed with just a few minor details to be completed before final completion.

“Painting has started around the circuit, and the run-off areas will display a unique design of colors and shapes to commemorate the return of Formula 1 to the United States. The overall design of these areas will show the distinctive COTA color red along the sides of the track. Run-off areas will illustrate diverse shapes in red, white and blue to commemorate the American heritage of the circuit.

“Parking lots are being finalized and COTA Boulevard, the main access road to the track, is being paved. In coming weeks, the construction team will finalize details around the circuit in preparation for our inaugural event on November 16-18.”


Montezemolo wants Ferrari to focus on the last five races


By Berthold Bouman

Fernando Alonso’s retirement from the Japanese Grand Prix is the second big blow to the championship aspirations of the Spaniard, who also had to retire from the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. But Ferrari is not yet ready to throw in the towel and with five races to go there are still 125 points up for grabs, and Ferrari President Luca de Montezemolo wants his team to be fully dedicated to the final five races.

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo

“It’s at times like these that I want to see the Ferrari I know,” he said. “A team that is focused and that holds its nerve. I will speak to Fernando by phone soon to give him even more motivation with which to tackle these last five races, with the bit between his teeth, as indeed I expect all the team to do.”

He was pleased to see Felipe Massa back on the podium. “Second place for Felipe was very important in this final part of the season when his contribution is even more vital,” Montezemolo said.

But the flamboyant Ferrari boss also expects his team to work even harder, as all is not lost yet, “I expect a huge effort from our engineers who have already shown they are capable of that and we are perfectly aware that this championship is still in our hands.”

Montezemolo praised Alonso, who in his opinion is the best driver around, ”We know we can count on the strongest driver around at the moment and it’s only mistakes from others at Spa and again at Suzuka, that have prevented him from having a more comfortable lead over his rivals. Let’s not forget that, but for those two collisions, today Fernando would have had at least 30 points more and that’s a conservative estimate.”

And the Italian warned his rivals the tide could easily turn in Ferrari’s favour, “In sport, as in life, the wheel turns and we must not forget that recently it has not done so in a positive way for us, but it does not take much for it to change direction.”


Japanese GP: Webber not happy, race ‘destroyed’ by Grosjean


By Berthold Bouman

Mark Webber finished the Japanese Grand Prix in ninth place, scoring just two points and thus tumbled down the Drivers’ Championship order to fifth place, now 60 points behind leader Fernando Alonso, who had to retire from the race.

Webber: Grosjean destroyed my race

Webber was hit by … yes, again the same guy, Romain Grosjean, who by now has the reputation Andrea de Cesaris had in the 1980s, in those day his nick name was Andrea de Crasharis. The Australian had to pit to check out the damage, and left the pit lane to join the race in last place, not the result he had hoped for after his second qualifying place yesterday.

“My whole weekend was destroyed by one driver’s actions,” Webber said. “If it was the first time Grosjean had done something like that, it would be okay because these things happen in racing,” he explained. And he added, “But he’s done it many, many times this year and at this level that’s not good enough. The stewards will take a look at him, but, ultimately, he has to look in the mirror himself. None of us can do it for him.”

The FIA Stewards have kept an eye on the Frenchman, he was suspended for one race and thus missed the Italian Grand Prix, after he had caused havoc during the start of the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks earlier.

“When I came out of the pits, I was so far behind the penultimate car that I couldn’t rejoin the back of the back by the time the Safety Car pulled in. That meant I was 17s behind the penultimate car when the race re-started, so I had lots of work to do,” a very upset Webber said after the race.

“It’s just so frustrating to have your race wrecked by someone else. I had the opportunity to get a very, very good result today,” Webber said, adding, “It was a chance for me to make big in-roads into the championship rivals around me. But it didn’t happen and there’s no point crying over spilt milk.”


Japanese GP: Kobayashi eyes podium finish at Suzuka


By Berthold Bouman

Kamui Kobayashi was the surprise of the day during qualifying for his home Grand Prix at Suzuka, a circuit he knows inside-out. The Japanese driver took fourth place with a lap of 1m31.700s, just 0,410 seconds slower than pole sitter Sebastian Vettel.

Great result for Sauber and Kobayashi

Kobayashi was happy with the result, and he indeed had every reason to be happy as he left Romain Grosjean, his team mate Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton far behind him. “I am happy because I think I achieved the maximum possible today,” said the Sauber driver.

Like other drivers he did lose time due to the yellow flags after Raikkonen had crashed during the closing stages of qualifying. “On my last lap I lost a bit of time because of the yellow flag when I backed off and switched off the DRS.”

Due to Jenson Button’s penalty, Kobayashi will start from third place on the grid tomorrow. “From where I am starting I should have a chance to fight for a podium finish, and it would be a dream come true if I could achieve my first podium in Formula One in front of my home crowd.

“But first of all I have to manage a good start, and then I should have more luck than in Spa this year where I started from the front row but got involved in an accident.”

Perez, who will move to McLaren next year, qualified in sixth spot but will also move up one place, is also aiming for a podium finish. “My last lap in Q3 wasn’t perfect but still good. I am very happy for the team that we have achieved such a strong qualifying result today.

“They have done a great job because initially on Friday here we were really lacking pace. It was a strong and speedy recovery and I’m confident tomorrow in the race we will be able to fight for another podium,” the Mexican said.

Monisha Kaltenborn was elated with today’s result, “P4 and P6 in qualifying — this is a sensational result! We brought a new aero package to Suzuka, did a lot of work evaluating it yesterday and finally got the reward.”

And she added, “Great compliments to the team and, in particular, to the two drivers who both did a great job. Now our goal is to convert this qualifying result into a great race.”